by David Cassilo / @dcassilo
Few teams have as much tournament history as Kentucky, but even Big Blue Nation will have to dig through its memory to find a player having a March like Brandon Knight. The freshman’s jumper with 5 seconds remaining gave the Wildcats a 62-60 win over Ohio State and a second straight appearance in a regional final.
In what was a back-and-forth contest from the opening tip, Jon Diebler tied the game at 60 on a deep 3-pointer with 21 seconds remaining. Kentucky then decided not to call a timeout and gave the ball to Knight, who rose over Aaron Craft, one of the Big Ten’s best defenders, and connected on the shot. Ohio State then ran the ball down court and William Buford missed a contested 3-pointer before time expired.
Knight now has two game-winners and a 30-point performance in his three NCAA tournament games. He also broke John Wall’s freshman scoring record for Kentucky during Friday’s game.
But while Knight will get the headlines, the difference-maker on Friday was Josh Harrellson. The senior went toe-to-toe with National Player of the Year candidate Jared Sullinger, tallying 17 points and 10 rebounds. Perhaps more importantly, his defense allowed Kentucky to defend Sullinger one-on-one and lock down on the Buckeyes’ outside shooters.
Sullinger, in what might have been his final collegiate game, gave everyone a performance to remember him by. The freshman phenom finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds. But despite being the nation’s top-ranked team for a large portion of the regular season, Ohio State will bow out before the regional final.
Playing in that game instead will be two of college basketball’s signature programs: Kentucky and North Carolina. The two teams in Chapel Hill on Dec. 4, a game which the Tar Heels won 75-73 behind 27 points from Tyler Zeller.